Mecho’s Dominican Kitchen, Washington, DC

Is this the best pork in DC? That’s what I asked myself after taking one bite of my lunch.

Mecho’s is a nice new place at 2450 Market Street NE Suite #801, in the Big Box development off South Dakota Avenue in Northeast DC — the one with the Costco that sells liquor (and sometimes over- or under-prices wines beyond belief, and the traffic pattern that must have been designed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and their world class Bottleneck Development Department. You know, the one that decided to funnel the thousands of cars leaving from Wolf Trap and the Nissan Pavilion into one lane. Mecho’s is across the parking lot from Dick’s and Five Below, and offers Dominican food, and is well worth negotiating the bottleneck.

My friend Poli Marmolejos alerted me to the existence of Mecho’s. Nancy and I took a detour on an eastward trip one Friday and stopped there for lunch. As I say, it’s a nice new space, with plenty of room for well-spaced seating as well as considerable outside seating.

We each ordered a Bandera, which involves your choice of meat, rice, and vegetable for $10-12. I chose rice with pigeon peas, pernil (pork shoulder), and mashed plantains. ($12).

First, that is a ridiculous amount of food for $12 in Washington, DC, enough for a meal for four people. Mecho’s must be the most generous restaurant in Washington. Here’s my plate after I’d finished gorging myself–

And that was just Round 1. There was plenty for a second big meal, big even by my noble standards. Nancy had enough left over to feed a village.

The leftovers were not because of any problem with quality. Quite the reverse. The arroz con candules was delicious, and I liked the mashed plantains. What made the meal unforgettable, though, was the pernil: pork shoulder roasted with lots of garlic and citrus and bathed in a magical broth. This is pork for the ages, richly fragrant and full of flavor. Adding some of the juices to the rice and the plantains elevated the sides to extraordinary heights. You will love this dish.

Nancy went with grilled chicken, black beans and rice, and sweet plantains ($10).

She liked her meal. Everything she ordered was well seasoned and very tasty, as I confirmed with judicious bites. Mainly, though, Nancy was bowled over by how much food she had. And well she might have been. There was enough left over for meals for Nancy, Ella, and Lily.

Mecho’s offers all sorts of meats, and I plan to try more, including their goat, ribs, bacalao, stewed chicken, and, on some Sunday, oxtail. And Mecho’s offers sandwiches, empanadas, mofongo, and much more, all filled with great meat. Or vegetables, if you wish.    

The pork certainly is great, but is it the best pork in DC? Well, it’s a tie with Los Hermanos in Columbia Heights. Los Hermanos is wonderful. As a hint of the quality of its food, visiting baseball teams (which include a lot of Dominican players) have Los Hermanos deliver their meals when they’e playing the Nationals. I first went to Los Hermanos with my dear friend and former colleague, Yvette Rivera. I won’t say why, but I was just now reminded of my first trip with Yvette. At the end, we drove from Evergreen, Alabama, the home of Conecuh Sausage and without any doubt at all, the best-smelling town in the world, down to Mobile. At the time, Mobile was home to lots of paper mills. Yvette later told me that she thought that I was the source of the rotten egg odor from the paper mills. Yvette is very forgiving. Let’s change the subject.

Back to Mecho’s. It’s named after Mama Mecho, the mother of twin brothers Aris and Raymond Compres, who also own Los Hermanos. Mama was actually named Mercedes, but their father Ramón’s pet name for her was “Mecho,” which I will loosely translate as “Wow!” And Wow! is a good word for the food at both restaurants. (Maybe I should start calling Nancy, “Wow!” Better not.) Both restaurants are wonderful, and they differ more in atmosphere than food. Los Hermanos has a more evocative Dominican atmosphere and is a fun place. Mecho’s is much newer and roomier, and it has ample parking. And a liquor license, if you care about that sort of thing. I recognize the possibility that having an ice cold Presidente with your meal could enhance your experience.

Both restaurants are very pleasant places to dine — nice people, an interesting mix of customers, and free from the usual income/class segregation you get in Washington. Both have wonderful food — including the best pork in Washington — for less money than you can believe.

Go to Mecho’s, and go to Los Hermanos for wonderful experiences. Compare them. And if you see me, as you well may, be sure to say “Hey.”

***

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